15 Minutes or Less and It’s Free: Delivering Values through Morning Meetings

morning meetings

Want to play Buzzword Bingo: Teacher Edition? Easy. You’ll need a room of highly qualified educators and bingo cards. Best played in conferences and professional development settings. Bonus points if you use the math teacher’s blue flair felt tip pen you knowingly took from the workroom. Don’t worry, it’s fine, she buys in bulk from Amazon.


Add your buzzwords: progress monitoring, student success, tracking, assessment, differentiation, etc. Double-check your colleagues – “data” cannot be used twice.


The truth is we love data enough to fill the board, and it pairs nicely with just about every educational buzzword imaginable. Data is how we monitor, track, assess, differentiate, and grow. Because data comes in so many fashions, it’s seasonable for every educator’s wardrobe, even the stylish term “social emotional learning.” I take this data every morning. Except there are no calculable numbers or figures. It’s ballet practice, soccer games, fights with best friends. It’s birthday parties with a concussed cousin from a slip-and-slide; or it’s being scared from what we saw on the news. Anything can go on the board, but it’s about being responsive to the thoughts and feelings students bring in the door.


Our morning meetings in seventh grade last 15 minutes and not a single bar graph, pie chart, or bubble sheet (marked heavy and dark) is required. The rules are similar to bingo; you listen. Countless hours and emotions happen in our student’s lives outside of school that have immeasurable bearing on their success and potential inside of our classroom. We allot this time as our “morning meeting” and each activity, exercise, or share-out takes precedent before any academic task. When students are given the opportunity to share and check-in in a safe, structured and nurturing environment, they grow together as a community in the values we relentlessly put before them:


Inspiration is an amazing catalyst, and students as peers can inspire one another. Students discuss how to be role models for one another, that doing the right thing is not always the easiest. They shout-out one another for examples of leadership they have seen and we make public our appreciation for excellence in one another.


Instill in students the power of failure and remind them that it is not mistakes we should fear, but our resolve to not fix them. Students recently surprised the eighth graders with a decorated hallway of posters made in morning meeting with motivational quotes and phrases. This activity came as a result of conversations before class on resilience and how to cultivate that in others.


Better report card grades, soccer goals, and risky-but-successful haircuts all share equal celebration. Students who take pride in themselves and their accomplishments simply feel better, and being happy and respectful to yourself is a standard all teachers try to teach. We’re constantly doing work to build pride in our students’ identity, so it’s about strength of character and focusing on what makes each person unique.


Students express thanks by writing on cards to their peers, parents, teachers, custodians, and community members. And students experience the joy that comes with sharing and reflecting on what we’re thankful for.


We don’t take the term “teammates” lightly. Whether we are writing holiday cards to St. Jude’s Hospital or making bookmarks for 5th graders, students learn doing things for others is on the same path to contributing to making your own self better. As students grow, they are able to more fully engage and strengthen the community through a strong, positive sense of self.


If you’re still filling out your bingo card, put “fifteen minutes in the morning” as your Free Space. It’s the space right in the middle of every other wonderful thing you do for your students. See you at bingo. Don’t let Mrs. Boyd see you’re using her pen.


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